Cadet numbers on the riseAbout 60 youth take part in overnight vigil for Remembrance Day ceremonies
Northern News Services
Friday, November 11, 2016
A higher than average number of cadets took part in this year's overnight vigil and Remembrance Day ceremonies, as the event continues to be one of the few 12-hour ceremonies in Canada, according to organizers.
Michael Le, left, and Adithi Balaji hand out poppies for Remembrance Day outside the Multiplex on Oct. 30. Both army and air cadets are seeing bigger numbers this year, according to Cadet Corp leaders. - Robin Grant/NNSL photo
A combined 60 Yellowknife air and army cadets are took part in the overnight ceremony this year, said Lt. Jo-Ann Martin of Yellowknife's 2837 Army Cadets Corps. That's up from the group's usual size of about 40.
"Both army and air have bigger numbers this year," said Martin, who has been involved in Remembrance Day ceremonies in the city for 11 years. She attributed the jump to better recruitment tactics, thanks in part to social media.
Capt. Paul McKee, who leads the 825 Royal Canadian Air Cadets squadron in Yellowknife and helped organize this year's commemorations, said the city's vigil is particularly unique. It is run by two cadet groups whereas smaller communities' ceremonies are often hosted by one group, he said.
"It's an important event for the cadets to know that there's so much more to the Remembrance Day ceremony than just Remembrance Day itself," McKee said of the overnight vigil. Cadets gain a better understanding of what it was like to be in a soldier's shoes - especially on bitter cold nights, he said.
Each of them is required to stand vigil for a half-hour time slot during the night. Together the group keeps guard of the cenotaph from 6 p.m. on Nov. 10 until 6 a.m. the next morning.
While Martin said she knows of other overnight vigils taking place in Canada this year, she added that at one point several years ago, Yellowknife was the only place to hold one.
"That in itself is probably the reason (the cadets continue to host it)," she said. "Because we're one of the very few that still keep it going."
The tradition has been around in Yellowknife for about two decades.
"It's an event that shows that we actually care and we have a lot of respect for our veterans, both those who are still with us and those who aren't," Martin said. "It shows they're still remembered in a very important way."
For new cadets in particular, it's a learning experience. Those who are longtime cadets also get a chance to demonstrate their place as role models by taking leadership positions in the ceremonies, McKee said.
When they aren't participating in their overnight vigil rotations, the group gathers at a central location in the city to meet guest speakers from the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces. This year, cadets got a special visit from Lt. Col. Michele Claveau, commanding officer of regional cadet support unit for the Northwest region, something Martin said hasn't happened here before.
Cadets are also responsible for lighting candles at the Lakeview Cemetery before the overnight vigil ends.
"It's absolutely the most moving thing," Yellowknife legion manager Nancy Hayward said.
"I've gone out there afterwards like at 11 'o'clock and all you see is all the different graves with the red glow from the candles."
She said the city is "really lucky" to be able to host such the overnight vigil. It's thanks to the help of the Department of Defence and other local organizations that provide
supplies or support to
keep cadets warm and dry through what can be a "dog-gone cold" night, she said.
Hayward is on hand every year to keep people fed. She cooks up dinner, snacks and breakfast for the group so they have fuel to keep going during their Remembrance Day parade the next morning.
According to McKee, months of preparation goes into making the day run smoothly - from organizing guest speakers to making sure everyone has uniforms. RCMP and city officials are involved to help close off streets and make sure people are safe.
Besides all the training and preparation for the commemorative events, cadets fan out across the city on two Saturdays ahead of Remembrance Day to sell poppies. This year they raised more than $10,000 for the local legion, McKee said.
"Both the army cadets and air cadets look at this from a leadership point of view, as a way that we can instill a better sense of pride and dignity in the remembrance," he said. "We wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't a labour of love."